It may have been improbable, but it’s President Trump
More than a quarter-century ago, in another election year, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ star Kirk Gibson hit a walkoff home run in the first game of the World Series. “In a year that has been so improbable,” the Dodgers’ iconic announcer Vin Scully said in an unforgettable television riff in the fall of 1988, “the impossible has happened.”
So it was Tuesday night, when Manhattan businessman Donald J. Trump -- a political outsider, possessed of daunting ambition, audacity and an acute sense of the American political climate -emerged as the winner of a raucous presidential election.
An American original -- a casino and real estate magnate with an uncanny ability to read the public mood and an unerring ability to discern his rivals’ vulnerabilities -- Trump now takes on his biggest task.
From the start, Trump bellowed that he was determined to make America great again, a theme that was ridiculed by his rivals even as it helped him triumph over them. Today, as president-elect, he must redeem great hopes, even as his election stirred great misgivings among American allies abroad and among about half the nation that voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Even had Trump not prevailed Tuesday, he fashioned a remarkable accomplishment, skewing the political calculus, upending all the assumptions of American political life, reshaping the profiles of the two major political parties and altering all the conventions of political comportment.
In defeat, he would have been an important factor in shaping American politics for the rest of the decade and into the next. In triumph, he is a formidable, historic figure.
Sometimes vulgar, always voluble, Trump ran against the political establishment of the Republican Party, against the customs of political life, and against the principal elements of American life -- big companies, big media, above all big traditions. He took on the banks, the government bureaucracy, the influence of capital lobbyists, and the prevailing ethos of establishment politics.
The election laid bare the country’s raw divisions of race, class and creed. Russia, Mexico and NATO look to America warily. Afghanistan and Iraq are unsettled, ISIS is not conquered. Obamacare’s future is uncertain.
Trump has had teams working for weeks on the transition, but in fact part of the transition is personal -- his transition from candidate to president-elect, from what former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York used to call the poetry of campaigning to the prose of governing, from critic without responsibility to what John F. Kennedy, in the mortifying wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco of 1961, called “the responsible officer of the government.”
Now, flush with victory but facing fearsome responsibility, his first task is to calibrate his ambition. “If you choose too ambitious an agenda, you’ll likely be called a failure,” said John H. Sununu, chief of staff for George H.W. Bush. “But if it’s not ambitious enough, you’ll be seen as a lightweight. You have to hit the sweet spot.”
With instinct and intuition for the sweet spot, Trump first won the Republican primary, then prevailed in the general election -- and now is poised to create his own White House staff and executive-branch administration. Each step along the way was improbable, even considered impossible.
No longer. The man who vowed to make America great again now faces great challenges. But against all the experts and all the expectations he fashioned a great upset, a great comeback and a great achievement.